Thursday, June 25, 2009

American Style—Bill Blass

William Ralph Blass, or should I say Bill Blass, epitomized classic American style. This gentleman peacock had an impeccable eye and it showed in his work, home and personal style.

Mr. Blass would have been 87 years old this past Monday, but passed away in 2002 from throat cancer—which was probably accelerated from his lifelong smoking habit.

In photographs, Mr. Blass is usually shot with his trademark cigarette (above: 1940's).

This boy from Fort Wayne Indiana, whose father committed suicide when he was only five years old, went on to create a $700-million-a-year fashion empire (above at the office in the 1970's).

Above: Smokin' in Indiana in the 1970's.

As a teenager, Bill Blass, was already selling his sketches of gowns to a New York manufacturer, and continued to design until his retirement in 1999.

During the 1940’s, when he was in the army, he sketched what would become his Bill Blass logo (above).

Above: Looking casually elegant in a turtleneck and denim jacket—Chessy Rayner and Mica Ertegun are in the background.

He was pals with, and dressed, many of America’s most stylish ladies including: Chessy Rayner, Mica Ertegun, Slim Keith, and Nan Kempner.

Above: A Blass menswear show from the 1970's—you can see Mr. Blass smoking in the background behind the model on the left.

His menswear line, like himself, was impeccably tailored and classic looking.

Because of the popularity of his men’s wear line, Bill Blass licensed his name to Revlon in the late 60’s-early 70’s. They created a Bill Blass men’s fragrance line that included bronzer, deodorant, soap, aftershave, and something called Men’s "Other" Deodorant—for the crotch!

Bill Blass even designed a Lincoln Continental (above), when he partnered with the Ford Motor Company in the 1970's.
When Mr. Blass was a newbie and starting out in Manhattan (above in the 40's), he looked sharp and had a chic apartment. He would buy the best quality things he could afford (Brooks Brothers clothing at the time), and later upgrade to more expensive and higher quality goods.

Above: A Maidenform ad from Glamour magazine, 1961.

Above: Bill Blass with Ralph Lifshitz (Ralph Lauren), c. 1970's.

Whether he was wearing a denim jacket or a tuxedo, this gentleman peacock was always elegant and well groomed. He knew what looked good on him and stuck with it—clean and classic clothing.

His homes were always chic and well appointed and he was a connoisseur of antiquities (above: his home at One Sutton Place in NYC).

Above: A well dressed table and well dressed gentleman—Mr. Blass looking chic in an oversized gingham patterned shirt, navy blazer, pocket square, brown belt, chinos, and his trademark cigarette.

His was passionate about his homes and gardens, and liked entertaining guest.

Mr. Blass bequeathed half of his $52 million estate, as well as several important sculptures to the Metropolitan museum of Art—including the piece above.

To learn more about this talented fellow, click here for numerous books about Bill Blass. Mr. Peacock salutes this quintessential American style icon for his taste and continued influence and inspiration for new generations of peacocks. Thank you Bill Blass!


David Toms said...

Definitely a style icon worth rememembering. Blass was the epitome of American elegance, ranking up there with Givenchy!

Paul Pincus said...


david john said...

his home is gorgeous!!! such a great posting as always!

david john
los angeles

Susan said...

Your blog is always a feast for the eyes and the imagination! Bill Blass is synonymous with classic elegance and impeccable style - can you still buy those wonderful Vogue patterns of his simple but stunning designs?

Christi said...

I was just in Ft. Wayne, IN. The only fabulous thing I know of there right now is a LUSH store!

Anonymous said...

All the poses with the cigarettes, he looks more like a long-haul trucker. Is this the Waffle House Best Dressed Hall of Fame? Not a peacock with those.

It should be no surprise to anyone that Mr.Blass died of oral/tongue/throat cancer.

Anonymous said...

I just read that Mr Blass served in the US Army in WWII where cigarettes were part of a GI's rations. Thank you Mr Blass, but damn the ignorance of it all!

A hopeless addict doomed to an early grave thanks to the the tobacco industry and the US Government.

MJ said...

Men’s "Other" Deodorant—for the crotch?

Just give it a wash with soap and water, for heaven's sake!

Paulette P said...

Another great post about another great Peacock. You sir are bookmarked!


I remember reading about his fab homes...I still remember that his NYC' dining room was also his library!...LUV that!!! Dining/library combo...trully inspired!

Anonymous said...

Read his autobiography, darlings. THEN you'll understand. AND you'll get the most amazing recipe for meatloaf (I kid you not). Blassy rules, even in death!

Shellbellbutterfly said...

...& by his own choice, don't forget. Some people choose to never learn. Sad fact, indeed.